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Past Questions and Answers | September 2013

Question #1

Question:  I have a mature fig tree (more than years old)it produce a lot of frut that seem to be rotten inside and a liquid comes out of the blossem end. Any idea what could cause this.

  Lois Gant, Sacramento, CA


ANSWER:   It sounds like fruit souring. Various insects bring yeast into the fruit eyes and they begin to ferment, souring the fruit and causing it to rot. There is no cure for this condition. The best way to handle it is to plant figs with closed eyes such as Celeste, Texas Everbearing, or Alma.

Question #2

Question:  I planted a dwarf myrtle. It has been in the ground for 2 yrs. The leaves at the bottom on tiny, the middle leaves are larger and then a tall branch with larger leaves finally bloomed. My nursery went out of business and I'm not sure if this is really a dwarf myrtle. I don't want to commit myrtle murder, but it is too big for the space. Should I move it or cut it back?

  Judith Corrigan, Sanford, NC


ANSWER:   The best thing to do is move it. This should be done in the winter when the myrtle is dormant.

Question #3

Question:  This summer the squash bugs decimated my squash, zucchini, watermelon and pumpkin crops. Other than spending hours a day handpicking and killing them, what can I do to get rid of the squash bugs without harming the chickens?

  Amanda Benson, Early, Texas


ANSWER:   Neem Oil will work on squash bugs and is not harmful to chickens if used in the recommended levels. Be sure you spray the undersides of the leaves as that is where most of the squash bugs accumulate. In addition, do not mulch the crops having problems with squash bugs as that is where they hide. Remove as much debris from around the garden as possible to deprive them of spots to overwinter.

Question #4

Question:  I have 2 crape myrtle bushes and want to know how and when I can prune them or if I should

  Nora Minor, Pleasant Hill, MO


ANSWER:   Contrary to popular belief, the only pruning a crape myrtle tree needs is the removal of dead and diseased branches. Otherwise, you should leave the tree to grow naturally.

Question #5

Question:  HELP! My shady lawn and plant beds are being invaded by voles. How can I get rid of them?

  Ann Allnutt, Archdale, NC


ANSWER:   Most things people do to get rid of voles are not effective: trapping, repelling, shooting, etc. However, broadcasting zinc phosphate pellets into the areas they are destroying is effective. Zinc phosphate is harmful to ground feeding birds, so should only be used where the voles are a problem. Placing the pellets in runs and run openings reduces the risk to birds. Be sure to follow package directions when using this product.

Question #6

Question:  What do I do with raspberry stalks after they've produced fruit this season?

  Blaine Steiner, Antioch, CA


ANSWER:   You prune raspberries after they have produced fruit for the season. Cut the stalks that produced the fruit down to the ground and leave the other stalks. These other stalks will produce fruit next year.

Question #7

Question:  I have flowering crab apple trees by May the leaves turn yellow and develop black sploshes, die and and fall off.What causes this and what can I do to prevent it next year.

  Arley Owens, Raynoldsburg, OH


ANSWER:   This sounds like apple scab. To prevent it, spray with a fungicide every 7 - 10 days from the beginning of bud growth until the apples are 1/2 inch in diameter. You Extension agent can tell you what the best fungicides are for apple scab in your area and when to use them for best control.

Question #8

Question:  I have some gorgeous lilies: Stargazer, huge white ones and deep red ones. They stagger in blossoming so I messed up there; but my biggest problem is that I bought all bulbs at a Flower Show over the past few years and the last order came with "red lily beetles"!!! Argh! I have used Neem to no avail. Can I dig up and relocate after washing bulbs well and also treat the old bed with Neem to eradicate them? Never had them before and my neighbor got some too from the flower show but less of an infestation... PLEASE HELP!

  Maureen L Richardson, Standish, ME


ANSWER:   Neem kills larvae and repels adults. Neem is most effective on first instar larvae; it must be applied every five to seven days after egg hatch. The insecticide imidacloprid also provides effective control. It is available in several formulations from Bayer including foliar sprays, soil drenches, and fertilizer stakes.

Question #9

Question:  We usually are eating our tomatoes by this time of the year, but for some reason they just will not turn red. It has been rather wet and much cooler than normal in our area. Is this the cause of slow ripening tomatoes or is there some other reason for this? The plant are full of tomatoes and seem to be very healthy otherwise.

  Robin Dunn, North Lawrence, Ohio


ANSWER:   The wet weather could be hampering the ripening of your tomatoes. When the bottom of the tomato is one third pink, you can bring them inside and ripen them on the window sill. Sometimes when plants are loaded with tomatoes they do not have the energy required to ripen them all. Removing some of the larger tomatoes and sill ripening them will allow the tomato plant to ripen the rest.

Question #10

Question:  I need a soil Rx: We moved 5 years ago and I transplanted some of my grandmother's peony starts under a bald cypress tree. The plants have matured nicely but have only had a couple of blooms. What do I need to side dress with in order to coax blooms? (BTW, the columbine I planted under the tree is Happy!)

  Jeen Steiger, Washington, MO


ANSWER:   You need a soil test to know what the soil is lacking that is retarding the peony plant from blooming. Peonies prefer alkaline soil, so if the soil is too acid that might be the problem. You can get a soil test through your county extension agent.

However, peonies prefer not to be around the roots of other trees and shrubs. They need direct sun in the North, although they prefer dappled sun in the heat of the South. If these conditions are not met, you will get few flowers.

Question #11

Question:  I am currently growing cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, and a few other things. This is my first garden and I would really enjoy continuing to garden through the winter. What are some good veggies to grow in Northern California?

  Isabel Sanchez, Antioch, CA


ANSWER:   Most vegetables are not terribly frost tolerant, so they will not grow in the winter. However, cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower will grow in the fall and early spring, as will turnips, beets, rutabagas, and carrots. Your extension agent in your county will have a list of the vegetables that grow in your county and when you should plant each one for your spring garden and your fall garden. Some greens, such as mustard, collard greens, and lettuce will continue growing in mild frost conditions.

Question #12

Question:  I have several Hibiscus Plants on west side of house. The evening sun is too much. Can they take full sun. Why do I get the yellowing of leaves. I'm not over watering.

  James D Wilson, Austin, Texas


ANSWER:   Hibiscus plants will do well in full sun. Yellow leaves can occur for a variety of reasons. You may be underwatering, the leaves may have just aged and are ready to fall off, or you may have an insect problem. Inspect the plant for aphids, whiteflies, or other insects. If you find some, use an insecticidal soap, according to the label directions, to eliminate them.

Question #13

Question:  My strawberry bed is full of weeds. mostly grasses,what can I put on the bed to save the strawberrys and kill the weeds?

  Fern Griner, Dumont, IA


ANSWER:   There is nothing you can put on your strawberry bed that will kill the weeds without killing the strawberries. You will have to hand pull the weeds.

Question #14

Question:  What is the best way to dry the herbs that I've harvested? I've tried in the past, but once I store them, I still have an issue with them molding.

  Shannon Leigh, Mission Viejo, CA


ANSWER:   Herbs are dried by placing them in a warm place with lots of air circulation. Herbs are dry when the leaves crumble and the stems snap easily. To prevent mold or mildew, make sure the herbs are completely dry. Place the dry herbs in glass containers with lids. Place the containers in a dry, cool place out of sunlight, which fades the herbs and evaporates the essential oils.

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